I’ve seen a few posts recently on “how to tell if you’re in an abusive relationship”. This moved a lot of thoughts in me, and as I’ve come to realise, they tend to explode into these blog posts.
The simplest way to tell if you’re in an abusive relationship is if you feel abused. I spent a lot of time on my own a few years back now, which makes me sound a lot older than I am. I spent a lot of time not talking to anyone, not opening up much and being a wall creeper. I wasn’t quite sure where my confidence had gone, and I assumed I’d just misplaced it. But when thoughts began to creep into my head that shouldn’t have been there, I decided to go and see a counsellor. She was a scary old lady by the name of Pearl [I assume her side of the conversation isn’t confidential], who wore bright pink lipstick and dressed in all black. And when I explained the past few months to her, Pearl told me something I didn’t expect to hear- she told me I’d been bullied. What I’d thought might have been my fault, with girls turning to whisper about me in corridors, and feeling isolated and lonely, was bullying.
I’d been “bullied” in primary school. I’d been thrown around and called names, because kids aren’t that sneaky. They’re open and honest and tell you to your face that they hate you and they reckon everyone else does too. But that sort of bullying is sharp and quick, and easily dealt with, like a bandaid over a cut. As you grow older, people get smarter until the pain is an ache, throbbing so hard you don’t know where it begins and where it ends.
After that, I thought I’d get some friends, so I found some people to hang out with, not realising the two don’t always go hand in hand. I felt battered and scared, so when I found some people who wanted to be friends, I thought I wouldn’t feel so lonely any more. But when the whispers started up again, although I was now in the circles, invited to sit at the table, I would still go home and cry myself to sleep, worrying about the next day and weirdly, still feeling lonely in the crowds. When words were thrown at me, and I was in situations I didn’t know how I’d gotten into, I figured it was all part of the dance- this is what happens when you have friends, isn’t it? That’s just what you do when you have a boyfriend isn’t it? That’s just what I need to do if I want to keep them, isn’t it? Despite some part of me crying out that it hurt, I didn’t realise emotions are quite like the physical world- if something hurts, something is wrong. If you’ve fallen and broken your leg, that usually comes with quite a bit of pain. It doesn’t matter if you tell everyone he’s great, but you fear going out with him again- you might as well be hobbling around on that broken leg and telling everyone you’re fine. I was terrified I’d dress wrong, or get screamed at again, and yet I figured this is what I needed to have the friends I craved.
How do you tell if you’re in an abusive relationship? You’ll be wondering if you are. And it wasn’t until my Dad turned around and said “well, if you’re going to let him treat you like that…” I wondered if I should. And so ended that.
And this year I ended up at Year 13. I talk about having new friends, and the great community, but I don’t know if many people will realise what exactly this means. Within a few months, without truly noticing it, I started going to parties and dancing. I started making jokes and smiling simply just to walk into a room and have people say “hey”. I started dating a guy who makes me feel beautiful without saying a word, and I’ve never wondered if I’m in an abusive relationship. So maybe I’m not. I started loving without the pain. My grandpa used to say “the best thing about banging your head against a brick wall is when you stop.” Maybe I didn’t realise I had a headache until I didn’t have one anymore.
If you are wondering why it hurts, look for the source of pain. If you think you’re in an abusive relationship, you probably are. And you’ll be more grateful you got out of it than regret having left it. If you are saying “he’s great, but…” you haven’t got the right one. If you’re saying “they’re great, I just…” wonder if you should be with them. God doesn’t give you 80%’s, He wants to bless you with 110%’s.
It doesn’t mean run from your friends, but it does mean there is no shame in walking away from your enemies.